Here we go again! As mentioned in my last article, the initial focus for our football players was building the X-core strength and stability. That got us to the next phase of our training, summer one, the month of June. The summer is when strength coaches make our bones. If we cannot make changes in our athletes over those two months, I can pretty much guarantee that the rest of the year ain’t gonna turn out too pretty. I felt that we had some momentum coming into the summer, and it was time to see if building our bodies from the core out was really going to help us.
Because of the COVID rules, spring ball was extended, and we could scrimmage some other teams. It was great from a football standpoint, but we had not done any speed or conditioning work during this time, so we were coming in blind. I decided to look back, all the way back over the past twenty-plus years I have been doing this, and pick out some of the things that I really liked that those teams did. Researching and implementing specific speed training hard-and-fast rules served us well during this summer. Here's how it helped the team.
We decided that ALL sprinting/speed work could not exceed 100 yards per workout for our speed work. We could work mechanics and technique, but actual all-out sprint work had to fall in the realm of 100 yards or less—ten 10-yard splits, five 20 yard-splits, you get the picture. All speed days (two times a week) were only done on upper body days, and there had to be 72 hours between speed sessions. Speed work had to be done in a 20-minute window, but full recovery between reps. We chose Monday and Thursday as our speed days.
Conditioning was another story. I went back to what I had done when I started and didn’t really know anything. I had a great background in the strength training department but knew nothing about running. So, I looked at what teams could really run on TV. The University of Miami had just won the National Championship in 1991 and looked fast as hell, so I wrote a letter to their strength coach Brad Roll. I asked about their summer workout packet, and he wrote back saying he would send it out to me for ten dollars—the cost of photocopying the booklet and postage. I wrote the check, and it was the best ten dollars I ever spent. The fact that he didn't know me from a hole in the wall but took the time to write me back, then send the letter, changed the way I looked and thought about running.
I followed it to a T, starting the summer with 200s, then gradually working down to 60s as the summer rolled on. My early teams were in great shape, and I never really thought about why they ran the 200s. We just did them because they worked. As time went by, I got smarter and started running 110s and all the other stuff we were supposed to run as football strength coaches. I fell into that trap and, being young and dumb, I became old and complacent. No longer did I question our running protocol. I was doing it mostly because it is what I have done, and it worked. But that is not good enough. I had to follow my own advice and always look at the why of the program.
It was time to go back where I started.
After doing more and more research, I realized that the 200s were not necessarily for speed. They make them hold their running technique longer than they will ever need in a game, building endurance in their hip flexors, ass, hamstrings, and, you guessed it, core. So we ran 3x200 for linemen twice a week following our lower body workouts and 4x200 twice a week for our mids and skill. The times stayed the same, starting a little high, and worked our times down rep by rep. We dropped a second on our times every week. We were not running Olympic times, but times made them fight hard enough so that if they got out of their run form, they would not make their time. The 200s were done on Tuesday and Friday.
The only piece of the puzzle missing was agilities. I decided to do something totally different. Instead of a group doing bags, another one doing cone drills, so forth, and so on, I decided to do everything together in a drill we call the phone booth. We lined up a hundred players (the entire team) into five groups. We lined them up at the end zone, with three bags in front of them—one on the five-yard line and one right before and after it. Their phone booth was from the goal line to the ten-yard line and those three bags. It was an all-out effort and finish through the ten- or the goal line depending on which side they would start.
We would throw the book at them, and it was great because the other guys in line would call them out and send them back if they did not finish or messed up the drill. Players became accountable, and for 20 to 30 minutes, it was a balls to the wall, full effort drill that covered every movement they would do on the football field. The players kept getting better, and what took us 43 minutes to complete week one, took us 22 minutes by week eight. I wish I had come up with this drill years ago; it is my favorite by far. Following that, we stay out on the field for some active stretching, and boom, Wednesday is done.
We've done this for the entire summer, and I could not be happier with the results. The players liked the way everything we did was short, to the point, and had specific days to really focus on certain things. Their mindset replaced the usual "grind it out" mentality with a positive mindset.
This summer was both challenging and rewarding. I had to dig deep into the archives and, at the same time, research and try some new things. I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
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Coach G has been a strength and conditioning coach at all levels of athletics for the past twenty years. After beginning his career as a strength coach at the high school level and winning four state championship titles, he became a head football strength coach at the Division I-AA level. Following a successful ten-win season, he moved on to the SEC as an assistant strength coach, working with football and other various sports for four years. Coach G then moved on and has been a director of strength and conditioning at the Division I level ever since. He has coached in numerous bowl games, playoffs, and conference championships.